IRISH LEAGUE: Hat-trick hero Waterworth’s praise for Linfield squad over solo show

Andy Waterworth celebrating in front of the Linfield fans. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Andy Waterworth celebrating in front of the Linfield fans. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

Hat-trick hero Andy Waterworth sat surrounded by personal reminders of his individual contribution to Linfield’s Irish Cup triumph but instead turned the spotlight on the value of squad strength.

Waterworth’s treble secured the striker a spot in the history books as the first since 1969 to net three goals on the domestic game’s grandest stage.

And it capped a week he described as “without a shadow, the best of my career” with a second successive hat-trick in the aftermath of the previous weekend’s three goals to help Linfield secure the league title.

With the accolades of a ‘man-of-the-match’ medal and match ball close to hand following his devastating cutting edge to kill Coleraine’s cup dreams, the striker choose to highlight the importance of team before self.

“Someone at some stage popped up with something this season and that collective performance is so key towards what it takes for success, with our camaraderie under-pinned several times,” said Waterworth. “Of course it is nice to have that hat-trick record now but Mark Stafford was my ‘man-of-the-match’, he was superb.

“His composure and tackles were perfect and crucial, with that desire to win the ball just unbelievable.

“Collectively you have to have everyone pulling in the same way across the squad to win the trophies.

“I’m delighted more for the team and in the four years I have been here we have been living in the shadow of former players and teams.

“This group is honest, with a great changing room and we have stuck together.

“I feel we have been building something special and today is the very big icing on the cake.”

Waterworth cast his mind back beyond what will prove a career-defining week to last year’s Irish Cup final misery against Glenavon.

“Commiserations to Coleraine as I know what it feels like and it was so hard to take last year,” said Waterworth, who suffered a broken finger in the first half against Coleraine. “I feel relief first and foremost as after last year I was talking to former Linfield players after the final and also knowing you have let supporters and staff down,

“We are human and the expectations can get to you but I do believe we are building something special here.

“At no stage in the season did anyone in this squad cheat each other.

“We know we need to freshen up the squad and keep on progressing otherwise you are standing still and teams will be coming next season to gun us down.”